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Customer experience (CX): Fulcrum of the business strategy

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  • November 24 2021
  • 17 min read
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Customer experience is the one of the top most priorities of a business which is to be looked after in order to climb the ladder of success. Undoubtedly, a business brand can be well judged by the level of customer satisfaction and service quality it provides to its consumers. Therefore, redefining the customer experience can prove to be an integral part of a business strategy leading to attainment of real business benefits. This article will give you the complete picture of the essential business strategies and solutions required to enhance customer experience and engagement.

Familiarising with the robust business strategies to redefine customer experience
 

Illustration diagram describing the business strategies to redefine customer experience

Understanding what exactly the customer wants

The first and most important thing which you should know is what exactly your customer wants. Customers expect their interactions with companies to bring in quality, speed and personalization. Interestingly, according to a recent survey, it is observed that among most of the industries, speed was considered as the top quality of exceptional digital customer experience. On the most general level, the customers actually look for empathy i.e. they want the companies to prioritize their individual needs and deliver desired products and services. For instance, according to a Salesforce’s survey, nearly three-quarters of consumers expressed that businesses which showed empathy at the time of pandemic earned their loyalty. But still many companies fail to deliver this basic necessity of consumers.

It is a very obvious thing that if you can show empathy to your customers and connect with them emotionally then they will certainly stick on to your business for a long time period. Most importantly, empathy cannot just be considered as a mindset shift. It necessitates meaningful changes in the manner in which the company structures and operates. 

Building an effective customer experience platform

After understanding your customer needs, the next step is to build a platform which enables the business to develop, redistribute and build on a range of customer-facing capacities. Rujia Wang, Head of Customer Experience, Product and Design Service Line at Thoughtworks said that some of the businesses build applications and websites very well but if you tend to look at how much of the work that goes into that are indeed reusable, it’s extremely limited. So, whenever the customers desire change or any kind of shift, it becomes very difficult for the companies to fulfill such demands. To solve situations like this, the companies will have to build an effective customer experience platform which will provide the companies with a standard toolkit helping them meet the customers wants regardless of how demands evolve. As suggested by Kristan Vingrys, Managing Director, Australia, Thoughtworks, a company should develop a technology based platform which is built not only focusing upon the technology but also around business capabilities, so that new technologies can be easily added. 

A great customer experience platform incorporates three primary layers – design experience, product strategy and the application programming interfaces (APIs) which all together meet the growing need of customers states Joe Murray, Chief Digital Officer, North America, Thoughtworks.

Illustration diagram describing the three primary layers of good experience platform
Source: Thoughtworks


Emphasizing on customer-centric design

I agree with the fact that a technology platform has to change constantly but what about the customer experience design? Undoubtedly, the customer's expectations and journey will change over the period of time. Therefore, the customer experience design needs to be assessed via two lenses - value to the customer, and value to the business. It is observed that the principles of design thinking, and human-centered design have become an integral part of the businesses. Joe Murray says that a lot of companies try to understand the customer preferences and all together put them in documentation and pass it on to the engineering team who then builds the features suggested by the design team. But due to the failure in understanding the context of the features, whatever they build doesn’t match with the desired outcome. Therefore, it’s an important matter which the companies have to work upon to enhance customer satisfaction. The next thing to look after is that the customer research utilized to inform design is not sufficient, since it’s completely a self-contained exercise. The customer research is not a one time effort, it has to be continuous so that you can understand their choices and preferences that keep on changing with the passing time. The next approach is looking at the data from the product use so that you can recognize if it is changing over the time. This can be a great help in understanding the customer behaviour. And continuously updating previous demand forecasting models can be of great benefit. For instance, if the recommendation engines work in accordance with the past customer behaviour but alongside a structural shift occurs, then it becomes doubtful whether those models will be capable enough to forecast customer wants and necessities.

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Creating a product strategy that supports desired customer goals

In order to turn the customer - centric design into perfectly working applications which would be beneficial for the customers, you need a unified product strategy. There is a great need for an integrated and well organized product strategy which can further help in removing the disagreements between cross-channel experiences, systems and the teams who work behind them. As without strategies it nearly becomes impossible to identify the customer's expectations and perceptions. Additionally, they also help customers in witnessing the seamless experience that they want in terms of quality, speed and personalization. The companies can succeed in building such strategies by focusing upon forming product - based work instead of project - based work, also adopting product thinking that leads to delivering quality products and services. More on product thinking vs project thinking here.

Embedding the customer experience capacities

After the unified product strategy, it's time for the experience APIs to enhance the customer experience platform by allowing to interact not only with customers but also with the external partners and collaborators. It enables a company to deliver an absolute way of satisfying customers and keeping them engaged for a longer period of time. The continuous flow of reliable information between companies and their customers makes cooperation an easy transition among digital and in-person communications a lot more easier. For instance, an automotive company in China which delivers empathy and personalized service by allowing potential buyers to video call a salesperson via its online e-commerce platform, walk to a showroom remotely and look on to a detailed 3D model of the car while being guided virtually. People who are interested in purchase can easily book a door-to-door test drive experience, without getting involved in a dealership. Later, they can be also offered the choice of customizing the car remotely before finalizing their purchase. 

Future-proofing customer satisfaction

If you want to retain customer interest and engagement for a longer period of time, then you will have to constantly think about innovation which means emerging technologies and fresh ideas that can improve the customers current experiences and even create new ones. When it comes to promising technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and conversational user interfaces, they are tremendously, assisting product teams to develop and find out new ways to help customers in achieving their goals. Here is an example: IKEA's 3D wardrobe app which is built utilizing augmented reality, enables shoppers to customize furniture virtually and get a chance to view how exactly the complete built-up model would look like in their home. Also, IDC’s recent Worldwide Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide foresees robust growth in AR and VR around the next few years, along with retail displaying among the top five use cases. 

Increasing agility in generating insights

You must be familiar with the fact that digitalization and the fast-changing market and customer dynamics necessitate speedy, frictionless “real time” insights in regards to different areas for proper decision making, particularly customer experience in management and design. It is often seen that traditional market-research approaches are not sufficient to meet the consumer needs and necessities. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the customer-experience leaders to explore ways to be more agile in generating insights. It can be done by adopting flexible and dynamic research approaches suitable for meeting consumer requirements. For example, mobile flash surveys and online focus groups, along with the integration of these insights straight away to the customer-experience design and redesign procedure can be considered as the right approaches. 

Improving the CRM systems and procedures for better customer experience

With excellent customer relationship management (CRM) systems and processes that support pre-sales and sales activities via post-sales service over a range of touch points, you can successfully redefine the customer experience. As it is observed that the typical CRM solutions do not provide the required support to the manner in which businesses and customers want to communicate. It is very important for the businesses to identify the requirements of their CRM systems and procedures to meet and excel customer expectations. 

CRM systems and procedures should provide the following facilities to reach the desired customer expectations.

  • Availing multi-channel interactions. It is for sure that customers in today’s time prefer interacting with businesses on their own terms. Therefore, today’s CRM systems and procedures should encourage different ways of engaging customers like online chat and collaboration. Also, online channels need to identify repeat customers and provide them personalized experiences. 
  • Connecting people to insights for deeper and better customer understanding. If you integrate CRM with analytics, it will allow sales and services teams to connect to data sources and utilize rich customer insights to enhance communications and create long lasting relationships with consumers. Supposedly, if you connect sales and service to accessible and usable customer data, it can then provide much significant support to customer personalization that will further help the customer facing employees to take the right step at the right time. Read comprehensive guide on customer data platform, how CDP supports personalisation, how to know if a CDP is right for an organisation, how to choose the right customer data platform, how to implement CDP, what you should know about customer data privacy, CDP vs CRM, and how to stay future-proof with CDP.
  • Allowing employees to communicate and collaborate to drive customer results. Some of the collaboration tools like IM, web conferencing and team sites are strong and useful additions to CRM. Due to these tools, the sales and service employees are able to get access to colleagues, partners, and other contacts faster than ever before, also throughout consumer interactions. Additionally, the incentive programs like the ones based on gamification, can be integrated upon CRM to support extensive collaboration and coordination within sales and service employees. 
  • Delivering mobile-enabled procedures to expand interactions. The addition of mobile solutions to CRM can be highly beneficial to the sales and service employees and customers. For the customers, the mobile applications are not only restricted to customer transactions, the business customers who are already the users of such applications in their consumer roles, tend to seek such a facility even in their professional roles. Moreover, the customers are provided with the required convenient information through these mobile applications without facing any difficulties. 
  • Valuing human touch. In regards to some industries like banking and insurance, the human element should be taken into consideration. The right customer relationship is the key to success for these industries. Therefore, through the medium of various digital channels, the human element must be made available to the customers at the time of need. For instance, a customer getting in touch with an insurance company’s call center will prefer having a video call with a real person. So, the video call can be considered as the human touch which will give a sense of satisfaction and trust for the customer.  

Gartner’s survey on the factors that drive customer loyalty


We have a survey conducted by one of the leading global research and advisory firms, Gartner on the factors that drive customer loyalty. This survey talks about how CX teams can take necessary initiatives in building a long lasting customer loyalty. To get a better picture of the factors which drive customer loyalty, Gartner surveyed 4,090 B2B and B2C customers over a range of industries in the U.S., U.K. and Australia in regards to their experience of making a considered purchase from a prime supplier. This survey could successfully identify four main categories of customers’ salient experiences that can act as a foundation to build a CX strategy leading to increase in customer loyalty. The four main categories of customers’ salient experiences are explained below along with an informative diagram.

Illustration diagram describing four categories that can act help to build a better customer experience
Source: Gartner

Interaction experience

This includes things like what the company does, how the customers experiences, the particular evaluations customers make in regards to their interactions with an organization established on considerations like convenience, effort, uniqueness, personalization and experience learning.

Product experience

This talks about what exactly the product does, how the customers experience, gives an idea about what customers think about the organization in terms of their practical experience using the organization’s product and service. It comprises factors like product utility, usability, customer needs alignment and life enrichment.

Brand perception

It gives a clarity about the customers perspective about the company’s industry position and a sight of alignment with the company’s values.

Price

It gives an estimation of whether the product provides good value for money or not. 

Cognizant’s white paper on the megatrends which can enhance customer experience


Here is one of the white papers of Cognizant that makes you familiar with the three most important megatrends that consumer-facing organizations shall be well versed to provide delightful customer experiences. 

System convergence for digital capabilities

It is observed that virtually every organization is considering CX as one of the most important bases for business transformation. One of the major investment areas under CX for almost all industries is technology. Many chief experience officers (CXOs) are making huge investments in digital enablement projects, but some are not. So, the research comes up with the following findings.

  • Since, there is a lack of alignment with the business goals and necessities, 78% of IT projects are unable to succeed in their respective business endeavors.
  • Out of these projects, 45% are really not based on business objectives. 

We get to know that there is very less interaction between the different operational and strategic components inside the organization. Since, organizations tend to become more customer centric and prefer staying close to their customers, and digital convergence becomes extremely important. It is believed that to make systems and related procedures more collaborative, there is a need to eliminate organizational and technology silos and also invest in systems which support the organization for delivering seamless CX. The research has categorized these key systems under four significant pillars.

Illustration diagram describing four categories that can act help to build a better customer experience
Source: Cognizant 

 

  • Systems of engagement

In every organization data has become a very important resource. Yet today, operational data is mostly closed and static, basically locked inside numerous separate systems. The lab, as a decision center, is a major candidate to take advantage of technologies like AI in the form of machine learning (ML) that depends upon data. Systems of engagement span traditional channels like voice, e-mail, SMS, fax, along with “new age” digital touchpoints such as chat, video chat, social, co-browsing, and messaging apps-WhatsApp which help in delivering a seamless, satisfying and exclusive experience to the end customers. Also, customer interactions can be mapped over channels to enhance the communications flow and guarantee that customer’s experiences properly align with the company’s strategies leading to a personalization of the customer journey. 

  • Systems of records

An organization’s data mart is represented with the help of systems of records (SoR). It provides support to the sales and service teams, also taking part in marketing initiatives (customer profiles, purchase transactions, campaigns, product preferences, service issues, etc.) SoR helps in providing a complete customer personas view, product details, sales and service history records, purchase preferences, and order and supply chain data.

  • Systems of things

We have witnessed that over the years the Internet of Things (IoT) has become one of the most significant technologies. Let me also tell you that the device manufacturers, OEMs, , high-tech companies, and system integrators are working hand in hand to develop unique solutions, products, and services which can allow machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine to-human (M2H) communications to smoothly share data over industry ecosystems, triggered by real-time alerts. The basic IoT concepts comprises of:

  1. Most of the devices, systems and things are becoming smarter, also embedded with the capacity to engage users. Additionally, Systems of things (SoT) leverage technology is improved by data assimilation and analysis at every level. 
  2. Man and machine convergence is enabled with the help of SoT and is also known as “connected life,” and is quickly disrupting all the industries, with regular emerging new use cases. 
  • Systems of intelligence

While SoE, SoR and SoT come along together, systems of intelligence (SoI) proceeds and obtains insights from data over these interconnected systems. SoI is observed encompassing the advanced analytics and learning platforms in order to process the numerous intelligence inputs which are active over the customer lifecycle. It includes:

  1. Artificial intelligent platforms along with “built-in” capabilities for personalizing self-service, like natural language processing, speech recognition, and virtual assistance.
  2. Machine learning technologies along with advanced self-learning capabilities that help organizations in implementing next-best actions like interactive routing, channel orchestration, and dynamic, real-time campaigns/offers.
  3. Emotionally intelligent cognitive systems which can capture real-time customer emotions over channels (voice, chat, e-mail, video) enabling organizations to have informed, empathetic conversations with customers.

Self-service is the new challenge of CX

As you can see, the customers today are time-challenged and prefer multi-tasking. They are not interested in remembering passwords and PINs or even wait on long calls for agents to resolve their issues. In the same way, organizations do not want their agents to take a long time in solving the queries and dissatisfy their customers. They prefer their agents to prioritize the important calls from the loyal customers, and route routine calls to other channels or automated responders. You can find that intelligent machines are today becoming “super agents” which can handle simple inquiries so that humans can look after more complicated and constructive tasks. Along with that, if the concept of self-service capabilities in contact centers is introduced then it will help in empowering customers to do their work by themselves which can save time and money in training and supporting agents. Therefore, self-service is gaining traction. It is expected that in future, self-service will be well managed and enable integrating traditional and self-serve technologies over channels to provide seamless customer interactions and a very satisfactory customer experience. Self-serve technologies comprise of:

Biometrics: An improved security and fraud prevention technology which uses biometrics is hugely adopted across all the industries, including banking and financial services, insurance, and telecom. Biometrics enable customers in authenticating/validating  their identities using non imitable biometric characteristics, like voice, iris (eye retina), vein patterns, and brain waves. Along with reducing fraud, it saves customers from remembering passwords and PINs.

Chatbots/virtual agents: Chatbots and virtual assistants (VAs) are automated and intelligent self-learning platforms which are compatible over devices. The benefits of virtual assistants are as follows.

  • Time can be saved while communicating with customers.
  • Improvement in agent productivity.
  • Increase in channel containment rates
  • Elevating user engagement

Emotionally intelligent bots (EmoBots): EmoBots enables you to understand a customer’s emotional state in real time and offer suitable support along with maintaining the context of conversations.

Actionable insights via voice UI-enabled personal assistants: You certainly know that voice is the new interface. So, devices like Amazon’s Alexa (Echo), Apple’s Siri, and Google Speech are hugely getting popular these days. They take questions from users and meet their demands, also simplifying regular interactions with organizations and over business units. They help in integrating with external applications by using APIs to develop a two-way communication channel to achieve any complicated tasks in both the digital and as well as the physical world via natural dialog. Therefore, users can easily book a cab, check in for their flight, receive reminders of their favorite TV programs and also check operational and business KPIs in real time by asking Alexa.

Prioritizing Zero-UI design thinking

The organizations need to understand the end-user experiences for delivering hyper-personalized solutions. Do you know what design thinking is? It is basically an organization’s capability to develop and deliver services with an “outside-in” view of their customers’ challenges. Zero UI refers to using sensory experiences (gestures, movement, voice) to trigger a specific reaction from a device. And it strives to accelerate the next generation of CX. 

Have you ever wished to attend a class in a real lecture hall while also taking an online course? The design thinking has to be instilled by the organizations to deliver proactive zero-UI-driven solutions to keep a good pace with the digital world. Technologies providing support to these capabilities consist of:

Augmented reality: This technology works by augmenting real-world objects and scenarios with computer animations and algorithms using sound, video, and graphics. AR offers you real-world information in a very interactive way which helps the virtual elements become part of the real world. With the help of this technology, a user can touch, examine, and experience things by wearing specially equipped glasses before even handling the object.

Virtual reality: This technology works by developing an “anytime/anywhere” audio-video representation of an alternate “world” in front of the user’s eyes via a combination of technologies like M2M, IoT, sensors, mobile devices, or VR headsets. By even sitting at their couches, the users can witness a whole new exclusive experience of “otherworld” scenarios. 

Challenges that come across while providing a seamless customer experience


The businesses come across a lot of challenges while trying to provide a seamless customer experience. Let us look into some of the challenges below.

Illustration diagram describing the challenges of customer experience

Poor customer connectivity

Poor customer connectivity. Even though top management evidently shares a willingness to focus on the customer, it is observed that some legacy organizations give less priority to customer-centric initiatives which act as a major disadvantage for delivering seamless customer experience. 

Inadequate Data Insights

A lot of times the decision makers fail to obtain meaningful insights for their companies by connecting diverse data sets. No doubt today companies have easy access to customer data, but still they are unable to put this huge data to optimal use. Consequently, it makes user experience less effective as the relevant information regarding customer behavior and choices cannot be utilized the right way. Read business value of having sound data strategies and how to capitalise on consumer behaviour with sound data-driven strategies to know more.

Lack of alignment in CX understanding

The company departments time and again lack a proper aligned understanding of their CX strategies. They fail to define the required internal procedures, functional interfaces, CX principles and responsibilities. Therefore, they are unaware of the desired roles and responsibilities to enhance customer satisfaction. 

Insufficient CX Measurement

The budget owners and stakeholders essentially are in need of transparency on performance to support customer experience and also manage their projects efficiently within their organization. But in true sense, the organizations fail to recognize the right measures to link the efforts of their customer experience into significant business outcomes.

Absence of advanced technology Infrastructure

It is well understood that the present stage of digitalization requires an advanced technology platform that can go well along with the pace of change. But it is seen that companies fail to renovate their existing IT architecture and face a great deal of difficulty to cope up with the constantly changing business demands. So, in a situation like this, the companies need to appoint some dedicated personnel who can take the responsibility of ensuring that the new tools and systems fit well with the complete organization architecture and ability planning. Read the macro trends in technology in 2021 and web development trends in 2021 to know more. 

Increase online obsession

During the last decade, organizations have preferably replaced various offline touchpoints with digitalization. As a result, the online touchpoints have been prioritized, ignoring the holistic customer journey which consisted of both online and offline touchpoints. So, if the organizations happen to place in different silos, focus exclusively on one instead of prioritizing both, and are unable to handle the cross-channel integration, then it will restrict them from availing the seamless customer experience which should be one of the most significant objectives of every business. 

Customers experience hyperactivity

Organizations sometimes get involved in planning numerous projects and programs to provide a good customer experience which further leads to a great disaster since trying to do everything at once isn’t a good idea. 

Conclusion

It is no longer a mystery that to improve the customer experience, the companies have to proactively build robust strategies, use the latest technologies and digitize more of the business and procedures, So, let’s be hopeful that the companies will prioritize playing their role efficiently and with honesty take the required steps and initiatives.
 

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